Today’s post is by guest blogger, Ron Chandler. Ron is the Director of Customer Development at Shelby Systems, and has served on church staffs of both large and small congregations. He is also a consultant in church administration and author of the website

This past weekend our pastor explained his leadership position on the multi-site movement for church growth. As background, our church is two weeks away from opening a second campus which is only seven miles away from our existing campus. Our church was started seven years ago in a shopping center with the pastor and approximately 50 core members. Today, we occupy one campus and conduct three weekend services with an average weekend attendance of 1500. In two weeks we will expand to two campuses, add two weekend services, and double our capacity for growth. Projected growth indicators show our church doubling in size across the board in the next 2 years. Each campus will have facilities that can house 600 in worship with supporting children and nursery space, café, and parking. Small groups meet in homes. The total investment in facilities is less than 5 million dollars and the church will be debt free in less than 2 years.

After having served on church staffs for over 30 years with much of that time spent in capital fundraising and expansion of large facilities and supporting facility services including budgets and sinking funds to maintain long term maintenance needs, I admit I am now a fan of the multi-site concept. Our pastor explained that for our church to provide one facility of approximately 100,000 square feet to accommodate 3,000 people in weekend worship and ministry space needs, it would require an investment of land and facilities exceeding $12 million dollars and capital fundraising programs for the next 6-10 years, plus the time and energy to plan, build, and budget for operating such facilities. However, utilizing the multi-site concept with moderate investment in smaller property footprints, cheaper construction using multi-use and limited size facilities, quick build and occupancy, our church can invest moderate resources in facilities and have much more resources for funding ministry and missions, with little or no debt. We can move quickly to start new congregations in areas that are fertile. Ministry startup can be fast and efficient.

Theologically, our pastor explained that he believes this is a biblical concept exemplified by the church at Jerusalem and the church network that Paul established in Asia and southern Europe. Obviously, the church at Jerusalem met in many locations, including homes. However, there is evidence that they did operate as one large church through leadership and giving. As Paul established churches throughout the region, he later wrote letters of encouragement and instruction, which were likely circulated to multiple congregations, not just to the one to which it was addressed, giving credence to the multi-site concept. Paul was able to travel to most of these churches and minister there personally.

As our church prepares to open its second campus in two weeks, our congregation has adopted the concept of multi-site and the vision of our senior pastor. Our pastor further explained that as we pay off our moderate existing debt, within two – three years our church can then pay cash for the next site and facilities needed. Those decisions will be based on geographic areas of growth where our church can quickly acquire property, construct similar facilities, and begin ministry within a short period of time, mobilizing volunteers and hiring of staff. With modest operating expenses, that new congregation can quickly grow to a point where it can sustain its operating funding needs while focusing on ministry. Budgets are ministry and missions, not facilities and debt-focused. The parent church can also plant churches in schools and community civic facilities with available resources. Funding and focus can also be given to local and foreign missions without stressing the budget. All of this is possible in a period of a depressed national economy.

I am a believer in this concept! For the first time in my ministry, I am seeing it first-hand and it works! And, I too believe it is biblical and good stewardship. Comments?